Having founded leading spread betting firm Spreadex in 1999, Johnathan Hufford CEO speaks to SBC on his company’s long journey. Focusing on in-house development since its founding, Hufford details to SBC readers how his firm has handled the rare market conditions and realties of running a spread betting product.
SBC: Jonathan thanks for letting SBC profile you… When you founded Spreadex in 1999 what market issues and conditions were you trying to solve? How have these factors changed in the 17 years since you began operations?
Jonathan Hufford: When Spreadex was first founded in 1999, we found a very competitive environment with seven operators in sports spread betting including UK legacy betting operators William Hill and Ladbrokes.
Today that competition has shrunk to just two out and out spread betting operators; ourselves and Sporting Index. The financial markets were more benign in nature but they have become far more competitive.
SBC: As a brand Spreadex has successfully translated the complexities of spread betting to an effective consumer proposition, how has your team achieved this vital competency?
JH: Being honest…I am not sure we have!! But like any dedicated firm we continue to improve our market messaging, via online tutorials, videos and using customer friendly language that is not centered on city technical speak or dialogue. I feel that this has helped grow Spreadex services and has been one of our main corporate focuses.
Spreadex marketing has further been supported by strategic content led PR using insightful articles in the wider media detailing markets intricacies, which have been a useful tool for engaging with the general public beyond just simply advertising our spread betting services.
SBC: Competing in today’s highly saturated sports betting market, where do you see spread betting as product and service?
JH: Its position will be as a small niche within the betting industry, this is simply this is a market reality. Sports spread betting was arguably the forerunner of betting in-play, and with a host of different markets. Unfortunately, because it is a small niche, it has been unable to maximise this innovation because so many people do not understand the market.
I am also wary of dumbing down too much the product as this would be irresponsible in a highly regulated industry. We do not want people to lose money on products/markets they do not understand.
SBC: Spreadex has placed a high focus on in-house led development, as a leader why did you focus on this strategy, when easier options were available for your spread betting product?
JH: Having a strong focus on ‘in-house’ development was a simply a reality for the business since our market was too niche, we therefore decided it was hard to brief outside firms on product development which would hinder us long term.
Aligning our divisions, some of our key IT personnel now are ex-sports traders. Having your own in-house systems allows flexibility to adjust and upgrade the platform as we see fit. However, the constraints are that we would like to be developing faster but it does not always follow that new recruits add immediately to the output.
SBC: When growing and developing Spreadex services for business, what has been your toughest period as its leader, furthermore what did you learn from this challenge?
JH: Undoubtedly, the financial crash in 2008-2009. We were saddled with some large bad debts in the financial markets and many related to small cap stocks where we could not liquidate the position. I learned never to give up and we reviewed all of our credit arrangements for dealing in AIM stocks . However, we did not want to throw the baby out with the bath water and punish those good clients who did pay. As ever, it is always a balance.
SBC: Finally, looking ahead how do you feel that sports consumer engagement will change, what should all betting stakeholders be preparing for in terms of new demands and technologies?
JH: I have no doubt the sites will continue to evolve and improve. There is a growing sign of giving more helpful information to clients before they place a bet about the sport/event which they are following. I feel also that the growing regulations will make account opening more difficult and more personal information will be required from both prospective and existing clients.
Jonathan Hufford – Founder & CEO – Spreadex